A group of United Nations human rights experts have “strongly” condemned the murder of a prominent journalist and human rights defender in Maldives and called on the authorities to conduct a public inquiry into the killing and bring those responsible to justice. Yameen Rasheed – an outspoken critic of the government who wrote about alleged public corruption and human rights violations – was found stabbed in the stairway of his home in the capital Male last month.
“We strongly condemn the killing of Rasheed and we urge the Government of the Maldives to take action now to promote and protect the rights of their people to express their views freely,” the experts said in a statement issued by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
The UN human rights experts issuing the appeal included Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection the right to freedom of opinion and expression David Kaye, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders Michel Forst and Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief Ahmed Shaheed.
Rasheed was also at the forefront of a campaign calling for accountability over the disappearance of another journalist and human rights defender, Ahmed Rilwan, who has not been seen or heard from since August 2014. According to OHCHR, he had received numerous death threats, which he had reported to the police, but apparently no action was taken to protect him.
The UN agency said Rasheed’s murder is the latest in a series of attacks against journalists and human rights defenders expressing liberal views. The killings come against a backdrop of rising religious intolerance in the Maldives and reports suggest that most of the attacks have gone unpunished.
The experts also noted that the island nation’s authority must take seriously their obligation to promote a free and safe space for all forms of expression. They said it is the government’s responsibility to take active steps in law and practice to promote tolerance. They also voiced concern over a legislation that uses religion and social norms to restrict freedom of expression in ways that are incompatible with the obligations of the Maldives under international law.
“We call on the Government to revise this legislation and other restrictive measures and to show a sincere commitment to human rights and democracy,” they stressed.